MESA, Ariz. – The first question presented to him was a pretty obvious one considering the circumstances of the last few months.
“Are you surprised to be here,” a reporter asked of Kris Bryant.
“Um, no,” is how the third baseman responded.
Immediately he was asked if he thought there was a point over the last few months where he wouldn’t be wearing a Cubs’ uniform in Mesa this spring.
“Obviously, yeah, with all the craziness that’s going on. But I’m totally kept out of the loop on all that stuff,” answered Bryant. “I’ve always expected to be here, and here I am, and I’m very happy about it, and I’m ready to get going. Pretty cool seeing everybody in the clubhouse, and really looking forward to get going.”
It’s hard to believe such questions would be asked of Bryant even a year ago, considering his contributions to the team in his five years at the major league level. Rookie of the Year, MVP, three-time All-Star, and the man who got the final out of the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years are apart of his Chicago resume.
But with his contract coming up at the end of the 2021 season, the likely demand for a high-paying new one from agent Scott Boras, and the Cubs having to take a hard look at their financial situation due to a lot of players coming up for deals, the possibility of dealing Bryant has come up. Two controllable years of a highly productive, elite player could net the Cubs a heavy return, which means Theo Epstein may be up to listening to deals for the superstar.
Many of those have been floating around this offseason, and Bryant spent most of the time trying to avoid the multitude of reports on social media.
“Twitter is completely off my phone since two years ago. It’s the worst thing to ever happen to this world. Then Instagram was gone off my phone last year,” said Bryant as he spoke to reporters for the first time at spring training on Saturday. “But obviously I have friends; they send me screenshots of what you guys said and stuff like that. So I’ve seen stuff second-hand, but I really try to avoid it.”
Yet one thing he made clear to the reporters to tweet and push during his media session is the fact that he holds no grudge towards the organization for the result of his grievance hearing that was finally settled a few weeks back.
“Respect on both ends, there’s definitely no hard feelings, so lets definitely but that narrative to bed,” said Bryant. “I definitely saw a lot of things out there saying ‘Oh, there’s ill will towards the team.’ Then there’s another one saying ‘There’s absolutely no ill will.’ It’s like, ‘OK, well where are we getting this from?’ The only person’s opinion that matters here is mine and I’m right here in front of a microphone telling you guys that there’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”
Bryant said that the grievance itself wasn’t something to attack the Cubs for holding him out of the majors early in the 2015 season, but rather as something to help future players as the go through similar situations.
“I completely respect this organization and everything that they’ve done for me, my family, giving me an opportunity to play the game that I love every single day. I just saw this as a process that is eventually going to help the players in the next round of negotiating and I was going to be that guy to have the courage to do it,” said Bryant. “I know there is going to be backlash for it, and I understand it,” said Bryant. “But it was really important to me to stand up for what I believed in, what we as players believe in. There’s no hard feeling, at all.”
During his nearly 40-minute media session, Bryant also wanted to address the idea that he wouldn’t want to be a member of Cubs once his contract does expire. He spoke passionately about the organization and fans that have welcomed him since he was drafted by the club by in 2013.
“I’ve always had the stance that ‘Yes, I want to play here, I love the city.’ The biggest thing with the whole trade rumors that has disappointed me is the fact that I feel like people, not everybody, but the main reasoning behind it that ‘let’s get rid of him now because he doesn’t want to be here in two years, he turned down this monster extension well north of $200 million and I’m like ‘Well, where was that? I never saw that,” said Bryant. “These rumors and sources and people just saying things. The only thing that matters is what comes from my mouth and never once have I said I never wanted to play here.
“I’m pretty sure you guys can go through all of the recordings, all the interviews. I’ve always said I’ve respected everybody in this organization, everybody in the city, the fans. We have is so good here, and of course, I’d love to play here.”